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Maybelline – Advertising Through the Years

Nithya M 2/8/19 CAMP – FC-6

Maybelline New York is one of the most widespread and well-known makeup brands in the world.
Although the market for makeup has always had stiff competition due to the sheer number of
competitors, Maybelline has always managed to carve their niche. They could also sustain themselves
through both the World Wars despite not selling a product of necessity.

The earliest makings of the brand were in 1913 in Chicago by Thomas Lyle Williams. As the story
goes, Maybel Williams singed off her
eyebrows while cooking and applied a
mixture of coal dust and petroleum jelly to
what was left of her eyebrows to fix them.
This is where Thomas supposedly, got the
idea for Lash-Brow-Ine. However, similar
products already existed in the market
(though not in America) and it is possible
that he wanted to replicate their success
through a mail-order business. Figure 1. The first Maybelline product with its packaging and the Maybell
The Lash-Brow-Ine was available through mail order for 50 cents (small) and 1 dollar (large). Once
the products’ sales picked up Thomas invested in advertising. The first advertisement came out in
1916 in the magazine ‘Photoplay’. As the
business grew, ads were placed in other
magazines as well.

However, the very name ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’

caused them trademark issues in 1920, by
another older makeup brand that used a similar
name. Maybelline lost the case and the term
that was so well associated with their brand was
lost. They switched to using other terms such
as eyelash darkener, eye beautifier, and mascara
Figure 2. Maybelline ad in a a magazine. The term eyelash
in their products and as copies.
beautifier was used before the word ‘mascara’ became prevalent.
Both the packaging and the advertisements featured the
“Maybell Girl” (Figure 3). It was synonymous to a logo in
function although it wasn’t called as such. It helped set
Maybelline apart from the other cosmetic products in the
market whose ads did not have a clear indicator of its brand,
unlike Maybelline.

In all their advertisement copies, even later into the future they
repeatedly mention that it is safe and harmless. This was
because of the many cases of other eye beautifiers in the market
that had caused stinging of eyes and some other minor
symptoms. Even though Maybelline reworked their product
formula to be less smarting after the initial tests, they repeatedly
assured the customers of its safety.
Figure 3. An ad with the Maybell girl
Emery Shaver, part-time advertiser and life partner of Thomas
Lyle, was the man behind the advertisements. Both he and Thomas Lyle understood the value of
celebrity endorsements in a time when it was a fairly new concept. They involved the film and
theatre stars of the day like Phyllis Haver, Ethel Clayton, Viola Dana, and Natalie Moorhead in their
poster ads. By 1929, they had spent over one
million dollars in advertising. They particularly
needed advertising not only to promote the
product and rebrand themselves after the ‘Lash-
Brow-Ine’ incident but also to abate a certain
stigma towards eye makeup.

Women’s eye makeup, back in the day, was

associated with theatre, costume makeup and to the
women on the edge of ‘decent’ society. Thus, eye
makeup had such a stigma that a woman in a
decent household should not be seen with one in
her purse lest she is seen as ‘loose of character’. But
Thomas Lyle played his cards well in having the
actresses use his makeup in silent films and use
their image in his advertisements. This was one of
the first uses of celebrity appeal in advertising and
slowly, eye makeup worked its way into the
women’s lifestyle.
Figure 4. Phyllis Haver featured here was one of their first
T HE 1930 S
The decade began with the stock market crash and everybody was prioritizing necessities. Normally,
cosmetics would never come under the priorities category. But Thomas Lyle recognized that women
would not be able to buy a new dress or new shoes and most other brands associated with beauty
would die out. He priced the smaller products at 10 cents per box rather than the 75 cents and made
his products available in the dime store rather than through order. The ease of access in both
location and pricing was integral to their brand staying afloat through the stock market crash.

In 1933, the Lash Lure scandal hit Maybelline. The scandal involved people being blinded
horrendously by a mascara from a different brand. The initial report that was released about the
scandal did not mention the brand by name, and hence all mascara and eye beauty product sales
dipped in this year. Hence, Maybelline released ads that specifically mentioned the lack of harmful
chemicals in their products by saying ‘contains no dye’ or ‘absolutely harmless’.

The same year, Harold Ragland joined the company and brought a professional drive to the
Maybelline brand. He revamped their distribution channels and boosted their sales by bringing the
products to the stores.

Most advertisements before 1930 were centered around
the product and gave detailed descriptions of the
product every time. Some ads, however, experimented
with having a single large image and a catchy line.

This decade also marked the first colorized poster ads.

Shown here is one of their earlier poster ads colorized
and used later in the decade. The ad being colored red
was also a branding strategy of sorts.

To further make their product unique and to stand out,

they used a bright shade of red on their mascara cases.
This was a time when red would have stood out at the
cosmetics section purely because it was not a common
color for makeup packaging. This also connected the
product to its advertisements.

Figure 5. An ad showing the before and after image of using

Maybelline along with an image of the product and the seal
of approval at the bottom
Before and after shots of models with
and without the product was also
introduced in this decade. This was a
further indication of the product’s
effectiveness. This is a technique that is
still used to sell cosmetics and other
related products.

From 1934, ‘The Good Housekeeping

Seal of Approval’ was also included in
the advertisements. This fostered a
sense of safety and product quality to
the brand. This was especially useful
after the Lash Lure scandal. Figure 6. Colorized and black and white version of the same image

The Maybell girl was completely removed from the brand and replaced with more contemporary

T HE 1940 S
Both the World Wars had a great impact on all makeup
products. The number of brands selling makeup was cut
down from 815 to 490 during the Wars. Maybelline began
advertising makeup in a way that was not unsimilar to war

Most makeup brands along with Maybelline convinced

women that it was their wartime duty to present themselves
as lovely women of the nation no matter what happens.
This, apparently, was what the men of the nation fought for
and it was the women’s duty to keep up the soldiers’ morale.
This was especially expected of the nurses, secretaries and
other women close to the war front.

This strategy along continued with

the low pricing and other usual
advertisements encouraged women Figure 7. Wartime ad showing a solider enamored by
to buy makeup throughout the war. a woman wearing makeup

Actress endorsements were also included in advertisements, like in Fig.8.,

for example, Hedy Lamarr’s own writing with a marker about the brand is

Figure 8. Actress Hedy Lamarr endorsing Maybelline

The handwritten aspect brings a sense of authenticity to the brand as if Hedy Lamarr herself was
vouching for the brand’s value.

The script font of the word ‘Maybelline’ was also made more contemporary.

T HE 1950 S AND 1960 S

The advertisements in the following decades were not heavily
influenced by any social or political change like in the previous
decades. Innovations were made in the products design, like the
cake and cream mascara that was available then finally gave way to
the modern tube and wand structure. Although the innovation is
credited to Elizabeth Arden, Maybelline was quick to adapt to the

The advertisements are still centered around the product and talks
about its benefits. But since they have vastly increased their
product range, they attempt to advertise multiple products in a
single ad. Figure 9. Multiple products with a model's
eyes on every packaging
There were still advertisements that featured actresses of the day.
However, the other ads and packaging featured a model’s eyes with
makeup. This would later become the signature Maybelline eye in the

The company was sold to Plough in 1967. This did not impact the
existing products, but rather increased their sales force and
introduced new products.

The packaging of Maybelline was revamped the same year. Although

the product itself came in the typical tube or box, these were
packaged into plastic cards (similar to how scissors are packaged
now). These cards were all
white, no matter the product
and created a uniformity in the
brand. The Maybelline red, was
reused in these packages. The
Maybelline eye was
prominently used and became
a characteristic of the brand.
Figure 10. Maybelline column ad
featuring the Maybelline eye
Figure 11. Packaging with the Maybelline eye and
Maybelline written in red
The first Maybelline TVC came out in 1956. It was educating and simple in nature. It showed
women how mascara can be applied, and an eyebrow pencil can be used. Back in a time when eye
makeup was stigmatized, small instruction booklets that came with the product may have been the
only way women learnt how to apply it. Hence, this TVC is particularly effective at depicting a live
demonstration of the same. Showing a before and after face of the model probably solidified the
customers’ belief in the product. The narration of the ad was typical of the time: a male narrator
with the voice of an announcer describing the marvels of mascara. The jingle is a memorable touch
to an otherwise simple ad. While it can be said that the echo effect used at the beginning might have
been for emphasis, it sounds haunting in retrospect.

There are other ads as well, along similar lines. A couple of ads focuses on how a woman’s eyes
should look beautiful for the man and had a romantic waltz-like instrumental music at the
background. This ad was comparatively more feminine and luxurious in nature. It used
fear/persuasion tactic to get its point across.

In all of the ads, the try to deliver the message ‘sensibly priced beauty only at Maybelline’.

Although the ads’ impact cannot be analyzed now, Maybelline’s rising sales throughout the decade
stands for their success. Their sales steadily rose and
amounted up to US$25 million in 1966.

T HE 1970 S AND 1980 S

Plough introduced multiple new products in these
decades. From eyeshadow, to lip tints and face powders,
through the 1980s, Maybelline became the complete
makeup brand as opposed to being the eye makeup

Despite this, the print advertisements themselves

remained much the same through these decades. Ads
talking about newer products explained its use and
showed a model with the final look. However, some ads
were more unique in nature as in the (Fig.12). It shows a
woman playing ping pong with a nail polish coated ball,
proving how strong the polish is. This is the first sign of
a Maybelline advertisement showcasing the benefit of the
product in a unique manner.

Lynda Carter became the spokesmodel of Maybelline and starred

in a series of ads. This was after the Wonder Woman series came
out starring Lynda Carter.
Figure 12. Maybelline ad for strong nail polish
The Maybelline font changed yet again, and for the first time was
not a script font. The Maybelline Eye was also cast out in the late
‘70s due to the changing product range and identity of the brand.

There were a lot of advertisements that came out in these decades
due to the commonness of a TV in nearly every household. The ‘Writing Makeup’ campaign (1978-
79) was one of the popular campaigns of the decade. Most makeup came in the shape of a pencil,
and they associated makeup with writing and came up with the slogan ‘Write a face as unique as your
Figure 13. Lynda Carter endorsing signature, face writing is here’. The ad features a model simply
Maybelline Moisture Whip lipsticks drawing on her lips with the lip pencil and on her cheek with the
blush while walking going to work. This is an example of association (simile) in advertising.

The nail color advertisement was originally a TVC and showed the same contents in video form as
the magazine ad.

The working woman showed in the ad also reflects the

society then where women entered the modern
workforce for the first time.

T HE 1990 S
Wasserstein Perella & Co. acquired Maybelline in 1990
and a year later the famous Maybelline tagline, ‘Maybe
she’s born with it, Maybe it’s Maybelline’ was created.

Every product they put out in the market was not new in
design, so they did not need to educate people about the
product itself. They only needed to introduce the
product to the market. So they try to invoke an emotion
within the minds of the consumers by using specific
words, like, ‘glorious’, ‘revitalizing’, ‘moisture’ etc.

Figure 14. A Maybelline ad with its famous tagline

The models in the ads are also shown in a lifestyle manner which was not done in the previous

Christy Turlington becomes a spokesmodel for Maybelline and is featured in the ads shown.

The brand is acquired by L’Oreal Paris.

The commercials of this decade pick up the pace even further compared to the previous decades.
The fast-paced relay of information seems to be a signifier of the modern era. This may also be
because advertising needed to be fast paced to catch the attention of the consumers who could easily
skip the ads. The advertisements announce new product collections released.

The Revitalizing Makeup line was made for women above 35 years of age, which is not their usual
TA. This line is supposed to cover fine lines, and slow down other signs of aging. It was advertised
by models who looked younger than their age.

The Great Makeup series advertised budge proof makeup

that lasted all day long no matter what. Some of these ads
were starred by their spokesmodels.

Their famous tagline was used in their commercials as well.

While the voices given varied through the decade, the tagline
remained the same.

T HE 2000 S AND 2010 S

Starting from 2001, Maybelline was renamed Maybelline New
York as a counterpoint to L’Oreal Paris.
Figure 15. Adriana Lima for Maybelline
In the 2000s, the ads generally feature the spokesmodels
against a colorful gradient and light shimmer filled

Figure 17. Jourdan Dunn, a woman of color as Figure 16. Kemp Muhl for Maybelline
Maybelline's spokesmodel

In 2010s, the spokesmodels are featured against a cityscape instead. The cityscape is supposed to
represent New York and the fast moving, urban woman they are catering to.

In these decades, the ads generally focus more on the image of the product and the spokesmodel
along with the brand name than the description of the product itself.

The commercials in the early 2000s are not really different from the 1990s except in the pacing.
While the 1990s advertisements feature sharp transitions between scenes, the 2000s features
smoother transitions lessening the sense of rush in the previous decade.

However, lifestyle advertising was still continued and showed the models in charge of themselves
which is the image they like to promote and cater to. They also completely removed any sexist
connotation in their advertisements. New makeup lines with newer and different features like
moisture rich, or lash lengthening were the feature of their advertisements. The ad would talk a bit
about the features but always showed it in video for a more convincing look.

Maybelline’s advertisements have undergone lots of changes since their conception due to many
reasons. With time, their product range, spokesmodels, marketing strategies and a lot more have
changed. But they retained their fundamental identity of providing affordable makeup for all